Joint US Marine-IDF training that began a month ago in Israel has included fighting mock Palestinian Authority terrorists in a simulated PA village. The ”grunts,” as Marines are sometimes called, commented, “Listen to what the Israelis have to say, because this is their reality every day. And we respect [them] for that.”
The mock attack on terrorists in a mock PA village was staged at night in a desert in southern Israel and reported in the IDF’s BaMahaneh ("In the Camp") magazine.
"The 'Flying Lion' battalion split into two platoons under the command of Israel officers in order to see if we could successfully work together," said Battalion Commander Lt.-Col. Oren Gil. The soldiers reached the outskirts of the mock Arab village after a six-mile march.
“In perfect sync, they break into the first houses just as the sky begins to be lit up by fireworks mimicking mortars and bombs,” according to the IDF report. “The troops begin to advance in the streets, soon coming in contact with the secret ambush of staged enemy forces. The sounds of shooting rings out throughout the streets, and while the Israeli troops wearing the olive green fatigues drown out the sound of shooting with cries of ‘Fire! Fire! Fire!,’ the Americans in their camouflage fatigues do not verbally react to the gunshot sounds.” As the battle heated up, they quickly broke their silence with curse words as they gunned down the terrorists, although the Marines also suffered "casualties."
The all-night trek and ensuing mock battle followed several days of training at the Urban Warfare Training Center (UWTC).
The joint exercise brought to light comparisons and differences between the IDF and Marines. Each side respected the other’s discipline, which was expressed in different forms. In the US Army, commanders are called “sir” and not addressed by their ranks and first name, as in Israel. Corporal Shai Cohen also noted the polite manners of the American soldiers: “If they bump into your shoulder by accident, they apologize profusely! They seem to apologize for everything!"
Food and language were a different matter. Israeli soldiers watched jealously as the Marines wolfed down American hamburgers that were flown in from the United States, while many of the Marines were not overly excited at the Israel’s canned meat called “Loof.”
“I brought Loof to one of them and he looked at me like it was dog food,” said Cohen. “But I brought it to another Marine, who tried it and actually liked it. He ate until it was finished, killing time before the beginning of the drill.”
The Marines learned a few Hebrew words, such as “mechabel” (terrorist) and "ma nishma” (what’s up?). The soldiers also bartered over certain items. The Marines explained that military equipment with any sort of Hebrew writing on it is of high value, like receiving a souvenir from a foreign country.
As for communicating, the Israeli soldiers said they found a solution: “We are champions at charades.”
During the mock attack on Arab terrorists, the language barrier contributed to the body count of the Marines. One Israeli solider, acting as the enemy, spoke in Biblical Hebrew to his comrades to throw a grenade at the Marines.
“The grenade quickly rolls along a central path, and one of the companies is forced to take cover in a courtyard,” the IDF related. “Sadly, the commander running the drill notifies them that they have seven dead in the adjacent building and if they advance they will lose more men.”
The Americans, as well, take their fake injuries seriously. While the Israelis who are “injured” shuffle to the nearby mosque for "medical treatment," the Marines act out their injuries apocalyptically. They fall back dramatically, and wait for at least three other soldiers to drag them through the sand, while continuing to remain in character of being nearly fatally wounded.
The training is a continuation of years of cooperation between the two military forces. “There's one other country in the world that is our ally, and that is the USA,” explains the head of the foreign training branch of the Ground Forces, Lt.-Col. Tal Lazarus. “All cooperation that has to do with imparting shared knowledge is welcomed happily. When the Marines, a widely esteemed unit, request that we assist them in a drill, we are happy to train with them side by side.”
The Commander of the Marines in Europe, Brig.-Gen Paul Brier, praised the training center and exercises. “This facility is excellently built,” he said. “We are used to using the facilities in California and it's great to try new facilities. Our techniques are similar, but we are learning new ways to do things.”
“The exercises here are really impressive,” comments Corporal Roland Sander. “Everything we learned here today opened my eyes. The way you clear houses is different and a lot more logical than the way we do it. Everything you do is completely different from what I'm used to."